David Yang/ North Hollywood High 11th
In the last 100 years, Korea has been facing division, war, and domination as they were fought over by Japan and Russia during World War II and were essentially used as pawns in the Cold War. As results, the southern and northern halves were separated and the North formed under the Soviet Union’s idea of communism while the South formed under the democratic-republican view of the United States. The separation remained permanent and the impenetrable physical barrier blocked off not only each other, but their embedded cultural and political values. The differences in how each nation established its region eventually shaped their government and lifestyle. Although Korea had a rich history as a United Nation under the Joseon Dynasty, disagreements in the expectations of government relations, economic stability, and everyday lifestyle, created an unfixable gap between the people of the South and the North.
The Korean DMZ is informally known as the 38th parallel, a line across the Korean peninsula established by the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone for North and South Korea. This dividing line left communism on the northern end and democratic republic on the southern end. As individuals in South Korea live in a democratic republic they are able to protest and seek influence without fear and expect all voices to be heard and listened to. Having a mixed legal government combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, Chinese classical thought, and with freedom of speech and religion they are able to express oneself and tended to have greater agency. North Koreans, on the other hand, live in a civil law system influenced by Japanese traditions and communist legal theory, a highly authoritative government involving the Songbun Caste System. This system involves 3 primary categories and 51 gradations starting with the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, at the top down to the criminal class. Questioning the system can bring upon severe punishment, forcing individuals to accept authority and learn to not question it. As a result they have less agency over their lives. These contradicting beliefs sprouted during Korea’s time of unison and as political events/wars took place, Korea was split and their ideas were executed, molding each nation as it stands today.
As South and North Korea began to flourish, their cultural values began apparent. Most South Koreans maintained their traditional lifestyle while North Koreans has a divergence between Korea and other cultures. For example, the divergence of culture in North Korea caused a third of Korean language to be changed whilst South Korea was not able to let go of their ancestor’s language. Although they both use hangul and jamo for their written words, the actual writing is different when comparing South and North Korea. In these characters the tone is often distinctly different depending on dialect. Korean Food cuisine has also changed for the North as they have longer winters and shorter summers resulting in poor agriculture, being farther north, while the South has a longer growing season assuring the taste of a homemade Korean meal on the table. The flags are key symbols to the difference of cultures between the two nations. The North Korean flag, also known as the Ramhongsaek Konghwagukgi, was adopted on September 9, 1948 with two blue stripes representing sovereignty, peace, and friendship. Two white stripes signifying purity; the red star depicting the symbol of communism. The South Korean flag, also known as the Taegukgi, is the native Korean flag with the white background meaning peace, the red, yang and the blue, yin, together symbolizing unity which can represent the equal balance between social statuses. The four trigrams signify water, fire, earth, and heaven portraying the concepts of opposites. As each nation embraced their culture, they proudly presented their flags as an accomplishment. These different cultures propelled division between the North and the South.
Economical distinctions between South and North Korea has driven their division even further. North Korea became one of the most isolated, unreformed, dictatorial economies in the world today. As they focus spending on their nuclear ambition over economic production, they have faced sanctions by the US and the European Union. Also natural disasters, such as the one in 1990’s, kept their economic growth negative and fragile. Although North Korea is economically underdeveloped, they have plenty of unexplored land with resources estimated to be worth trillions. South Korea on the other hand has had a spectacular history in economical growth. They are projected an average annual growth rate of 7 percent. Exports play a huge role to this percentage as according to World Bank’s data, exports of goods and services accounted for 53.9 percent of the GDP in 2013. As we watch each nation continue to flourish, the North and the South are flying farther apart by the minute.
Some may argue that their cultural and political differences had no impact on the division of Korea and the irreparable political events entirely affected the separation, but this claim is false. Embracing change is hard, especially if you’ve already adapted to the environment around you, but the north had already started to gradually form contradictions and questions to their culture. Because of this, the adjustment they had to make after geological division was comfortable. Even after the split, they signed the Korean Armistice Agreement, establishing the Korean DMZ, as a way of accepting the change. Creating a border between the two nations instead of attempting to rebuild the land which was destroyed and the nation that once brought them together proves that their disagreements in culture were a reason to be apart.
Family disputes, or the smallest disagreements have the potential to create division. Korea was split into two nations which was caused by a side effect of a political war and their different values in culture and economical development. Their different languages, food, and even clothing, are distinctly different although they came from one. Their political views, as communism took over in North Korea and Democratic Republic on the South, changed as well. The way they spoke culturally indirectly or directly, or they way they were seen as having a strict sense of the collective, it all comes back to their differentiations. Even though they were once a family, they have transformed into unique super powers.
<David Yang/ North Hollywood High 11th